CRTS Insights

Long-term Considerations of Owning a Trailer You Shouldn’t Overlook

Posted by David Shepherd on Apr 20, 2021 4:16:22 PM

J&J Ent RWe’ve had customers who bought trailers they didn’t need, and we hate to see it happen. We want to serve our customers’ best interests, so we’ll guide you based on the information you tell us about your needs and operations. 

It’s critical to evaluate your needs before you buy a trailer and to think through the long-term considerations. Here are a few considerations to evaluate before you begin working with a trailer dealer. 

New or Used?

It’s often better to buy a used trailer until you know exactly what your long-term needs will be and you’re comfortable with that scenario. If you’re a new owner-operator, you probably want to buy a used trailer, because it’s important to invest in a trailer within your operating budget. A reliable used unit will help you get established without a lot of up-front costs.

Likewise, if your utilization will be less than 75 percent, it may not make sense to buy a new trailer. Keep your utilization cost-effective and choose a reliable used trailer.

Used doesn’t mean second-rate. The better-made trailers these days will last more than a dozen years without much problem. We’ve seen trailers come through that are 20+ years old, and they’re still running. If you keep up the maintenance, take care of it, and drive safely, even a used trailer can last you a good long time.

Download our Used Trailer Checklist — the one resource you should have before buying.

Lease vs. Buy

There are advantages and disadvantages to buying and leasing, but it’s almost always dependent on your particular situation. It’s especially important to understand the tax considerations. If you’re leasing, you might not own the equipment at the end of the lease, and that may have tax and financial implications that could affect the financial health of your business. 

The bottom line on leasing or buying a trailer is to understand how each option will affect your particular business and to consult a CPA or financial advisor who can walk you through all the ins and outs of it.

Related content: What to Expect When Financing Your New or Used Trailer

What Do You Really Need?

Don’t purchase more trailer than you really need. Some drivers fall in love with stainless steel or spread axles. Remember that while stainless steel really looks beautiful going down the road, it won’t make you a dime more money than a white trailer will.

Stainless steel also has some drawbacks you should consider before you buy:

  • The tiniest scratch will look like the Grand Canyon. Scratches and small dents stand out like a sore thumb on a stainless steel trailer, and there’s no guarantee someone won’t back into your trailer at the dock or truck stop.
  • Stainless is also heavy, and that will add costs to every mile of your haul.

On the other hand, those trailers will last a good long while. If you see a 30-year-old stainless steel trailer, it’ll look just like it came off the dealership lot. It never rusts or corrodes.

Some drivers love spread axles, but too many people will buy spread axles without knowing how to use them. You can’t treat a spread axle trailer like a tandem trailer, and the costs in repairs can hit you badly, long term.

Spread axles give you greater stability and weight distribution. They’re also easier to balance on scales. They track behind the trailer better, they handle bumps more smoothly, and they’re more stable while driving on the highway. 

But spread axles are also harder to turn — especially on tight turns or at crowded docks — and you can end up with faster tire wear, tire damage, or even axle damage. Spread axle trailers are also heavier.

Business Considerations

It’s important to know what kind of freight you’ll be moving on a regular basis. If it will always be dry freight, you will probably never need a refrigerated trailer. On the other hand, a reefer can handle both refrigerated and dry goods — but a refrigerated trailer is considerably more expensive than a dry van.

Try to discover your back haul arrangements as best you can. Often, you know what your outbound freight will be, but it’s the back haul that’s more uncertain. If you understand your back hauls as completely as possible, you’ll have the information you need to decide what kind of trailer to buy.

Also have a business plan, and make sure your next trailer purchase aligns with that plan. Perhaps you plan to run 3,000 miles per week, for 50 weeks out of the year. 

  • How much will fuel cost you? 
  • How much will your truck and trailer payments cost? 
  • What will your insurance premiums be? 
  • What will your tags cost?

Think through all of these considerations before your purchase so that you can know exactly what you’ll need in order to make a decent living. If your trailer payment (or your truck payment) becomes too cumbersome, you’ll need to cut back on something. However, if you begin your venture with a workable budget and stick to it, you will be miles ahead.

A smart trailer purchase will help set you up for long term success, but only if you evaluate all of the considerations before you buy or lease your trailer. Take the time to plan and gather the information you need — you’ll be able to make your trailer decision with greater confidence and peace of mind.

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For 50 years, CRTS, Inc. has been a trusted partner to hundreds of transportation firms. We accomplished this by putting our customers first, providing unequaled service, and offering the best semi-trailer products available. 

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